Types of Pleas
If you are charged with a crime you may enter one of three types of pleas to challenge or resolve your case: not guilty, guilty, or no contest. All pleas are conducted in open court, on the record and must be entered with you present. Prior to entering a plea you must understand the charge and maximum as well as minimum penalties involved. Additionally, your plea must be voluntarily meaning no one is forcing you to enter the plea.
In an effort to expedite the resolution of the “not so serious” cases many non violent, misdemeanors can be resolved after you arrested but before formal charges are filed. If you are charged with a misdemeanor by law enforcement via a CRA (Criminal Report Affidavit) you can typically enter a plea of no contest or guilty at the first appearance hearing (pursuant to FRCP 3.130). The first appearance hearing takes places the following day after you are arrested. Traffic offenses and misdemeanor crimes involving victims usually cannot be resolved at the first appearance hearing. The rationale is that the court does not have all of the information necessary to resolve those types of serious cases.Not Guilty Plea
Not guilty pleas are entered from the beginning of the case until a satisfactory resolution is reached between your Tampa criminal defense attorney and the prosecutor. A not guilty plea sets your case on the track for trial. Although, in most instances you can withdraw your not guilty plea at anytime before trial if you reach a plea agreement with the prosecutor.Guilty and No Contest Pleas
Entering a guilty or no contest plea is a way to resolve your case in court. In most cases unless you violate probation, have a delayed sentencing date, or violate some sort of court order you will not have to go back to court. Before accepting a plea of no contest or guilty, the judge must go through what we call a plea colloquy. The plea colloquy does several things. First, it advises you of your rights and the consequences that you will face by entering the plea. Second, it reduces the likelihood that your case will be returned to the trial court on an appeal by addressing various potential appellate issues in advance.
During the plea colloquy the judge will make sure that your plea is voluntarily entered and that there is a factual basis for the plea. Both your defense attorney and the prosecutor may assist the judge with the factual basis for the plea. The judge must also place you under oath and address you personally to make sure you acknowledge your guilt or believe that entering the plea is in your best interests.
All pleas are held in open court unless there is good cause in which a plea may be taken by video conferencing.
You must understand the following prior to entering a plea of guilty or no contest:
The nature of the charge, the minimum and maximum penalties that apply including any minimum mandatory penalties.
You have the right to be represented by competent counsel at every stage of your case. If you cannot afford an attorney the court will appoint you one.
You have the right to plead not guilty and have a trial. At that trial you can confront and cross-examine witnesses and call witnesses to testify on your behalf. By entering the plea you are giving up your right to do this and ultimately go to trial.
You are giving up your right to appeal the facts of the case. However, you may appeal a sentence if it is illegal or improper.
The judge will make sure you understand the consequences of the plea if pursuant to a plea agreement. If you are entering the plea in open court you understand the maximum penalties the court may sentence you on.
The judge will confirm that you are a US Citizen. If you are not a US Citizen you maybe subject to deportation.
You are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol and you have the mental capacity to enter the plea.
If you have any questions regarding withdrawing a previously entered plea or the plea negotiation process contact us at Pallegar Law, P.A. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime contact an experienced Tampa Criminal Defense Lawyer by calling (813) 444.3912 for a free consultation.